A night after leading with Democratic Congressman John Murtha's call for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq, Friday's CBS Evening News painted him as a victim of unjust attacks on his “patriotism,” though CBS provided no supporting soundbite of any such accusation, ludicrously insisted he was a “leading supporter” of the war and featured clips of Democrats, including “another decorated veteran whose own patriotism has also been questioned” (that would be John Kerry), who “fired back" at the “personal attacks” on Murtha.
Anchor Bob Schieffer framed the story: “When Pennsylvania's hawkish Democratic Congressman John Murtha said yesterday the time had come to withdraw our forces, Republicans accused him of wanting to cut and run, and all but challenged the patriotism of war critics.” Reporter Bob Orr began with the ridiculous assumption that Murtha “had been one of the leading supporters of the war in Iraq." In fact, as my Thursday night NewsBusters item detailing CBS's coverage noted, in May of 2004 Murtha proclaimed that “we cannot prevail in this war at the policy that's going today.'' (NewsBuster's Noel Sheppard here, and Tim Graham here, dug out other instances of Murtha's hostility to the war going back to 2003.)
Orr proceeded to assert that “the White House turned its guns on the Democratic hawk, comparing him to a left-wing filmmaker,” Michael Moore. “Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert piled on,” Orr added before quoting Hastert and then painting Democrats as the aggrieved party: “But Democrats, angered by what they saw as personal attacks, fired back." Orr featured Senator Carl Levin denouncing the “smear” of Murtha and how “another decorated veteran whose own patriotism has also been questioned went even further." Viewers then heard from Senator John Kerry: "It frankly disgusts me that a bunch of guys who never chose to put on the uniform of their country...” Orr them empathetically relayed Murtha's view that “the war has been mishandled, and people have had enough,” before he ended by showcasing a Republican to illustrate how “name-calling exploded in the House." (Complete transcript follows.)
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth provided a transcript of the November 18 CBS Evening News story:
Bob Schieffer: "As American public support for the war has faded, the debate over Iraq has become more bitter and more personal by the day. When Pennsylvania's hawkish Democratic Congressman John Murtha said yesterday the time had come to withdraw our forces, Republicans accused him of wanting to cut and run, and all but challenged the patriotism of war critics. That led to Murtha to come close to calling the Vice President a draft dodger, and there was even more fallout today. Here's Bob Orr in Washington."
Bob Orr began: "It was a bombshell from a decorated Vietnam veteran who had been one of the leading supporters of the war in Iraq."
Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), at his Thursday press conference: "This is flawed policy wrapped in an illusion!"
Orr: "As newspaper headlines trumpeted Congressman John Murtha's call for an immediate withdrawal of troops, the White House turned its guns on the Democratic hawk, comparing him to a left-wing filmmaker. [text on screen] 'It is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party.' Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert piled on, charging Murtha and Democratic leaders 'have adopted a policy of cut and run' and 'would prefer that the United States surrender to the terrorists.' But Democrats, angered by what they saw as personal attacks, fired back."
Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), at press briefing: "They can try to smear Jack Murtha any way they think they're doing. It's totally inappropriate."
Orr, over Vietnam-era pictures of John Kerry: "Another decorated veteran whose own patriotism has also been questioned went even further."
Senator John Kerry (D-MA), on the Senate floor: "It frankly disgusts me that a bunch of guys who never chose to put on the uniform of their country now choose in the most personal way, in the most venomous way to question the character of a man who did wear the uniform of his country and who bled doing it."
Orr: "Murtha, who comes from a depressed blue-collar district which has already lost 12 soldiers, says the war has been mishandled, and people have had enough."
Murtha, in a Capitol hallway: "They think this policy is flawed and they think we need a change of direction. And they support what I was saying."
Orr: "Late today, name-calling exploded in the House-"
Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) on House floor: "He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message -- that cowards cut and run, Marines never do."
Orr: "-when Republicans rushed a surprise resolution to the floor calling for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. It's a forgone conclusion that resolution's going to fail. This is a tactic by Republicans to force the Democrats' hands to take the stand and vote on the very controversial question."